Twenty seven years ago today, I :
*Was very young. 23 seems a lot younger now than it did then.
*Was twelve pounds lighter and had great knees! It’s amazing the noise they make now.
*Decided that life with Chris Lierheimer was better than life without him.
*Thought that all an abused man needed was the Holy Spirit and the love of a good woman. (There’s a book about naivete in there somewhere. )
*Was lighthearted. Thought PTSD was a designer disease for slacker soldiers.
*Thought a lot less than I do now. Pretty much accepted what my conservative Baptist upbringing gave me, word for word.
*Thought about ‘terminal’ in terms of trains and airports.
*Was exceedingly self-absorbed. The world was my oyster, and I was going to make a difference.
*Had no idea what an ‘intact family’ was. Didn’t everyone have one? What’s up with making a special name for what’s normal?
Now, twenty seven years later, on this day, I:
* Am 50. That seems so substantial. My peers are busy getting their minds blown about teetering on the brink of old age, and I don’t have time for that. As far as I’m concerned, 50 is High Noon, so let’s get busy!
*Weigh in at around a buck forty instead of a buck thirty. Guess what? I’m never going to stand on a pointe shoe again, and good for the 23 year old Victoria who could. My body has mothered four children, seen a good man to his grave, held the hands of dying men and women, and kissed my own mother goodbye. I’m delighted with this ‘car’ God gave me to drive around while I’m here, in spite of the fact I have to take in for repairs more often. I can swim, run around, hike, ballroom dance, turn the heads of the middle aged man set, (and a few women) -In short, this body rocks.
*Still think that life with Chris Lierheimer was better with him, than without him. It would be now. I’m sitting on the porch of our lovely little family cottage in Upstate New York, watching the herons and loons go by. Having kids is great to share these things with, but having him would be better.
* Realize that paternal abuse is about one of the most heinous things someone can do to a child. Chris needed years of therapy before marriage, and certainly before children. Had his mother addressed this instead of denying it, many of our bumps would have been diminished.
*Carry a lot more weight around. Chris’s death was the most traumatic event I have ever endured, and the fallout from PTSD lasts. More on that later.
*Realize the kind of Baptist upbringing that I had was a genuine mixed bag. The youth leader was a charismatic high school teacher who actually believed that Catholics likely weren’t Christians because they worshipped saints. All the ‘cool’ kids went to youth group, and chubby stutterers like me were relegated to the outskirts. On the other hand, we hand a constant, steady stream of solid grounding in the Scripture, and for that I am grateful.
*Shudder less at the word ‘terminal’. My good friend Clare Flourish (clareflourish.wordpress.com) unwittingly gave me a piece of life-changing wisdom a few columns ago. We were trading experiences about seeing our fathers age, and in her case, die. She told me that she had, rather than a sense of ‘a life lost’, ‘a life completed’, at the loss of her dad. I believe that we were created not to die, but to live with God and enjoy Him forever. Clare’s words gave me a vision of my dad finishing the work he was to do, and getting off at his terminal. He’s going to be with his father, and his Heavenly father. This is a good thing. Thank you, Clare Flourish.
*Am a great deal less self-absorbed. Thank God. Had I no children, no husband, no divorced, agnostic, Jewish, Buddhist, doubting, gay, transexual, young, elderly or otherwise different friends, I’d be a crashing boor. I shudder at the thought.
*Mourn the loss of my intact family. There is simply no getting around that. My dear friend Bird Martin (everyonehasastory.me) once observed “ …wouldn’t we want our loved ones to keep a little token of us in their hearts should the roles have been reversed?…Chris will have left behind a little legacy in that you will be little more empathetic for others who are going through the same thing. Don’t fight it in those sad moments when you think of him. Embrace the fact that he deserved to have someone grieve for him here on earth.”
I find this to be true. And as I said a few days ago, some pain demands to be felt. But my family is not intact and I wonder where the fractures will end. God is the Great Physician, to be sure, but we do not know His plans.
Even so, life is good. On this, my twenty-seventh anniversary, my children and I raise a glass of peach wine to that marriage day long ago. Happy anniversary, Chris Lierheimer.
A funny thing happened to me on the way to the movies the other night, my girls wanted to see The Fault In Our Stars. John Green is the author of the book by the same name, and he’s a very young, liberal, hysterically funny author and blogger. My daughters have latched on to him as the Most Current Hip Thing, and I get it. He’s also a spot on storyteller with the sucky reality of cancer, and I wonder about the point of it.
Anyone with a pulse realizes that TFIOS is blazing box office numbers right now, and I just can’t figure it out. It’s grossed over 50 million bucks on a twelve million dollar tab to make, which is a pretty impressive return on studio investment.
The thing is, people, why pay to see what is all around you? I told my girls they could see it. I knew I would probably have objections to it, so I read the book before making any censorship decisions. (Note for those with ears to hear, always know what you are talking about before you insist your kids don’t see/buy/listen to something. )
So I read TFIOS, and bawled like a little girl. (Zero spoiler alert here, by the way. It’s a cancer movie, so of course important characters are going to croak, OK?) John Green wrote the book as an attempt to help people understand that cancer patients are not somehow “other” than the rest of us mortals, and that even young ones can have rich, full lives. To that, I tip my hat. The legions of friends that surrounded us when Chris was dying never gave me that ‘vibe’, he was treated with as much humanity as he ever was.
But how is it we are not awake to this? Why do we need to pay to be jarred into tears? As the movie progressed, I found myself watching my fellow movie-goers. Predictably, tissues came out during the more heartwrenching scenes. Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort are completely adorable as the star crossed lovers, and when one of them dies, it brought the ladies next to me to full-blown sobs. Huh?
On July 18th, it will have been four years since I lost my own Chris to cancer. For about the first two of those years, just about everything brought me to tears. I was a raw, walking radar for other people’s pain. I didn’t have to look to closely, sometimes I didn’t have to look at all, to find something worthy of tears. Divorce? Illness? Cruelty? Aging, ignored elders? Neglected children? Hunger in America, of all places? Wounding thoughtlessness to loved ones? New friends have even opened my eyes to how we mistreat other life forms- I never knew that elephants had family structures a lot like ours, for example, and grieve for years when their babies are shot for sport.
It seems to me that we are experiencing what I find to be kind of a disturbing trend. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I might call it ‘social media isolation’. It’s hard to hold someone’s hand when it’s wrapped around a screen, or typing on a keyboard. Texting interrupts everything, and the need to record everything for Facebook is everywhere. It’s ironic to me when we pay to see mind-boggling natural events on a big screen, and don’t strap on our hiking boots and go for a walk. And there is something deeply dismaying to me to see men and women weeping at a truly touching story, and leave those tears in a wadded up tissue at the theater door.
So what to do with all that energy? I find that simply showing up does a lot for me. Get to a church, friends. Go to a woman’s shelter. Go to an animal sanctuary. Walk into a hospice and offer to mop the floor or make coffee. Go to an inner city AA meeting. Show up and let your heart be broken by reality. It’s much more satisfying than a movie.
Hmm. Well, that one certainly got my attention. Most of you know that my three older kids are in college now, and they all come back with things that constantly startle and amaze. My older daughter is blossoming into quite a feminist, and is walking a line between frothing rabidness and downright insightfulness. (It’s actually pretty funny, she’s self aware enough to call herself trite. )
Still, I listen to her like I did over lunch today, and can’t quite believe what I hear. We discussed this issue today. The quote titling my column today came from a two year old column by one Jared Wilson, a blogger for an organization called “The Gospel Coalition.” Mr. Wilson wrote a column for the Coalition entitled “The Polluted Waters of 50 Shades of Grey.” (He has since taken the column down.) In it, he quotes another author -Doug Wilson, who wrote in his book Fidelity: What it Means to be a One-Woman Man:
“Because we have forgotten the biblical concepts of true authority and submission, or more accurately, have rebelled against them, we have created a climate in which caricatures of authority and submission intrude upon our lives with violence.
When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed.”
Now just sit with me for a second. I have trouble getting over my revulsion about the words ‘conquers, colonizes and plants.’ Much less the violating implications of ‘surrenders and accepts.’
Rachel Held Evans, an Egalitarian Christian blogger, barely restrains her wrath from these men. I’ll excerpt what she said shortly.
Apparently, there are labels to be had here. The Gospel Coalition types, as I understand them, call themselves “complementarians.” That seems to mean that they accept Americanized-(italics mine) gender roles as God ordained. Men are in authority over all things, women are to submit.
Egalitarians seem to reject this, and accept roles with more liberality. As far as sex is concerned, it kind of boggles my mind that this is even a debate. Here is what Rachel Held Evans had to say: (rachelheldevans.com/blog/gospel-coalition-douglas-wilson-sex)
According to this post, sex is just another avenue through which a man must exert his authority over woman. As with everything else, the man is the boss and the woman is the subordinate. Wilson contrasts this “God-ordained” relationship of authority and submission to that of an “egalitarian pleasure party,” which I can only assume refers to a sexual relationship characterized by mutual pleasure, mutual authority, mutual submission, and mutual respect—which sounds a lot more desirable to me than being conquered and colonized.
Now, Ms. Evans continues with lengthly reference to Song of Songs, the first chapter, where she describes the Shulamite woman as going out, finding her husband, and initiating the joy of sex with a willing partner. In First Corinthians 7:3-4 the Apostle Paul also teaches about the mutuality of the marriage bed.
I don’t label myself as anything but Scriptural, but I find myself landing with Ms. Evans on this one. How on earth is there anything but mutuality in the marriage bed, as taught in Scripture? Gracious.
Really, to me, I don’t care for any of this theological bickering, only inasmuch as it applies to the people I love. I must say, though, I am concerned. As my children fly out of the nest, they float through a lot of this relational nonsense. Fortunately for me, I was raised in a household that valued ‘hiding God’s word in my heart’ and not much else. It helped a lot when I met Chris, who had been blown about by all sorts of feel good teaching. None of that helped heal the hole in his heart from an abusive family dynamic. Only leaning on the eternal, unchangeable, healing of God’s spirit set him free.
My prayer for my children, as for you, is that we continue to find solid, baggage-free, Scriptural teaching that is not viewed through the lens of the culture or fad of the day. That we continue to dig through the treasure of Scripture and find out what God has to say about matters of the heart, rather than have someone do our thinking for us.
Biblegateway.com is a great place to start. I have great faith in your ability to think, Visitors, and Biblegateway has a great parallel feature where you can look up what you are interested in, find several versions of scripture, and start asking yourself the important questions. Then go to your pastor, or write me even, and let’s figure some of this stuff out together.
Love to you all,
(Note, Jared Wilson has since apologized for the content of his 2012 column.hegospelcoalition.org/blogs/gospeldrivenchurch/2012/07/20/some-reflections-just-one-explanation-and-apologies/)
Doug Wilson stands firm.
Hi gang, it’s nice to see you again. I recently made contact with my friend Bird Martin at http://everyonehasastory.me/ Bird has a heroine role in my life. When I first started blogging after my husband Chris died of colon cancer, Bird Martin was the very first person who made any comment at all on my columns.
It was a revelation. I wasn’t just talking to myself? Egads. Someone else might actually listen, and perhaps, even, BENEFIT from what I had to say? It couldn’t be so.
But it was. Bird and I developed a rollicking friendship, culminating with a visit to Colorado. Over the past year though, life has intruded, and we had fallen out of touch. I determined (or “Purposed” in Christianspeak) to catch up on her blog, and am backtracking. (Bird, dear, I am on October 2013)
Our lives have run parallel courses, and I am wondering how many of you are walking the same road. My dad has been sick too, Bird. Last fall, he fell in his house, and wasn’t discovered for nearly a day. Up to this point, he had refused daily care, accepting only the three hour daily visit from the local Visiting Angels helping agency. My brother and I check on him daily, of course, but his fall happened after all of those ‘safety checks’ took place. Of course.
So, we went through the tiresome process of rehab, where these sparkling new hospitals treated my father like a number, and we eventually found him a place a mere three miles from our homes, which he seems to enjoy. His intellectual abilities are slowly fading, and he needs more and more care.
It’s difficult to ‘mother’ my dad. Once again I’ve gotten some pretty solid advice from people who sit around and think about this stuff for a living. I’m told as much time as I can give him, I ‘ll be glad I did later. Those of you who’ve been with me for a while, know that at the beginning of victoriasvisits, I wrote a lot about being constantly pelted by death for about 18 months. First Chris, then my dear friend Mickey, then Emily Berkeley, Tom Seedroff, and many others. It got old.
Being around Dad sometimes has that effect. That makes me terrible, I realize. Playing cards with Dad at his new place, and wondering, “Hmm, this could be the last time I play cards with Dad.” How morbid is that? Dad is aiming for three digits, which is cool. I think it would be hilarious to have a centenarian in the family. But I keep on remembering Mom. January 7th, 2010, she gave my daughter a birthday card, told her she looked gorgeous and wished her a happy birthday. That night she blew out an artery in her brain the size of a pencil and was gone in eight minutes.
What to do, though? Not hang around Dad because he could drop at any second? Hell’s bells, he coined that one. “Kids, I have one foot in the grave already, so be aware!” Got it, Dad.
Nope, not an option. I muster up the strength, drive over there, play cards, eat cake, and drop off Engstroms Toffee beside his bed. (He forgets I bring it to him, so his care provider and I joke that he must think the Candy Fairy comes from time to time.)
In the mean time, get a load of this bunch.
Chris and I used to joke that we’d be poor in our dotage, but we’d have a great bunch of little powderhounds. It’s true! The bigger kids all had spring break at the same time, so they came back from their various colleges and we took off to Vail for a few days.
Chris and I were a great parenting team. Boy, do I wish he were around for this one. See, we believed very much in the power of habits, and repeated activities simply being normal. So, we committed that each kid would get ten years of concentrated ski instruction. (Nothing too intense, Copper has an 8 week program we did for years, then extra family days, of course)
The point being, that when they were done with that, each kid could ski anything on the mountain. Then, when they start to scatter and live their lives, as they are beginning to do, the thought process would go something like this:
“Hmm, what to do with my two weeks paid this year? Huh, a few days in Colorado skiing with the sibs? Sure! Sounds like a blast!” Mothering these kids through this and various other transitions to adulthood takes a lot of intentionality.
Planning to see my increasingly childlike dad is also quite a trip. But right now? I think I’m good with it.
What do you folks think? Sign in below if you’re a sandwich mom or dad, let’s hear your stories.
A line of random digits appeared across my Caller ID. I’m always suspicious of that kind of thing, I’m amazed that Apple hasn’t figured out how to conquer phone spam yet.
Chris started identifying himself by his name about a year before he was diagnosed. Sounded more professional than ‘Hello’, he thought. Frankly, I thought it was just a more intimidating way to answer the phone, and I liked it.
“Hi Mom!” There was a slight pause, “It’s Faith! I’m using E-‘s phone! He can get reception in Kenya and I can’t!”
Good Heavens! The Luddite in me is still astonished that communication can take place halfway around the world through this slim little metal box in my hand. One of my babies was calling my phone, maintaining that family connection that has grown as slender as a spider silk, these days.
Those of you who have been with me for a while know that Faith and Christopher were rear-ended by a careless driver coming home from my mother’s funeral, January, 2012. (For details, the essay here is “The Surprising Adventures of Single Motherhood”) Faith broke her wrist, and Christopher sustained a minor concussion.
The other driver was fine. As “Death By Infuriated Mother” is not acceptable punishment for such carelessness, I had to settle for a personal injury attorney. He netted all accident-related bills paid for, of course, and a small cash settlement for both children.
For Faith, this settlement proved to be pivotal in her growth. We had long talks about what ‘pain and suffering’ actually mean in an award like this, and it was a great opportunity for self-awareness.
How would this cash help alleviate the ‘pain and suffering’ brought on by this accident? What would a bigger bank balance actually do for the pain of suffering an injury on the day of her beloved grandmother’s internment?
Well, it’s a matter of the heart, really. Faith’s heart, along with those of the rest of my children, had been crushed by the death of their father, a mere 18 months earlier. Then, Nana passed, another blow. What would serve to help lift Faith out of this accident-aggravated depression?
Enter Uhuru Child.
Uhuru means ‘freedom’ in Swahili, and it’s an effort by Brad Brown and his wife Annie Johnson to figure out sustainable solutions to enormous poverty problems in Kenya.
These kids are exploding with the desire to bring some sort of the life of Jesus Christ to people mired in some staggering poverty.
Faith, at 19, is on the cusp of figuring out what direction she wants her life to go. All of my children are fairly other-centered, thank God, and every one of them have some pretty interesting unselfish stories to tell.
But Faith is the one who’s inner well-being seems to depend on this type of thing. She decided that this is where she would like to spend her money. She decided this in March, and has researched, worked and learned about the goals over there for months. It was a remarkable thing to watch. This goal really has done a lot to alleviate her ‘pain and suffering’, and breathe some life into her developing adulthood.
Uhuru child has a major goal of sustainability. Western charitable projects in countries like Kenya develop an unhealthy dependence on the flow of money from their donors. When that flow dries up, so do the projects.
Uhuru child has a goal of developing jobs and schools that can maintain themselves. Click on this thing to see something you don’t see in America. This is awesome.
Faith has been working on lettuce farm for a week. With U-child’s inital startup, this is a functioning, self-sustaining business, that will be there long after the Westerners go home.
Faith will be there for another week. My child’s heart is changing, and it’s a beautiful thing to watch.
Much love to you, Visitors.
Addenda: Recently I’ve taken more care with studying faces. Here a couple for you!
Hello gentle readers, how good to see you again!
I’m sitting at a National Novel Writing Month event. It’s a gathering of purple haired, overweight, Whovian,Trekkies, pierced, inked and costumed people who have one thing in common; we all want to write a novel.
NANOWRIMO is a non profit out of Berkely, California, and is formerly known as the Office of Letters and Light. Over five hundred thousand aspiring novelists will join this crazed effort during the month of November. (nanowrimo.org) This is the fifth time for Faith, my nineteen year old, and also the fifth time for Rachael, who will be sixteen in December.
Nano is actually one of a long list of things that gives me hope for the future. It seems as though my role in life is evolving more into that of an observer, and I’m not sure I like what I see. Passive consumption of media is now the norm of most people in my circles. More and more eyes are fastened to some sort of screen, more hands are full of electronics. Fewer solid interpersonal connections are made these days, with so much electronic distraction.
I’ve noticed that with these two things comes a lack of engagement in the world. Nano is a wonderful antidote to that. If I had to guess, I would say that no one sitting around me has the equipment appear to be successful. Not a cleft jaw in sight, no tiny waistlines on any of these women. A youthful costumed flapper is sitting next to an authentically clad Starfleet admiral who is tapping earnestly away next to a middle aged Girl Scout. I would venture to say that most Nano participants are happier beside a crowd, rather than in the middle of it.
This event began at ten pm, Halloween night. I got here past eleven, and the festivities were in full swing. No one knew each other from real life, and it didn’t matter a whit. Everyone is united with purpose, we are all going to be the Next Big Thing in the writing world.
No matter that our collective attention span is diminishing, no matter that most Americans prefer the image to the written word, no matter that actual book sales have been declining for years. Everyone sitting here believes in the power of the story, and that, my friends, is the beauty of it all.
So off we go! Victoria is writing again, and I look forward to seeing you all in the middle of it.
Funny, in the midst of great blessings, how easy it is to slip into melancholy. Springtime is finally here in Colorado, the meadows are green, and nothing is burning.
Coloradans, do you remember the date of the first fire last year? March 26! One of my staff members had the fire advance to within half a mile of her home, and several clients had their life’s possessions reduced to dust. Thank God we seem to be retreating from that today.
Since then, life has been on a wonderful upward track. Learning to be single has been a remarkable struggle, but I have made some lasting friends in spite of the pitfalls and setbacks.
My counselor has been a great help, especially during the issues with fledgling children. It’s funny, people generalize and judge with the ease of a fingersnap. I’ve been an active parent since my children were laid in my arms, it’s a wonderful occupation.
When issues come up, like Abi leaving for Georgia in the fall, I get “Oh! You must be so saaaad! She’s moving so far away!”
Actually, I am sad. But not for that reason at all. I’m thrilled that Abi has matured enough to consider making such a gigantic move. She belonged at SCAD last year, truly. What makes me sad, is that I can’t walk next door, barge in, holler “MOM!” and word-dump all of this wonderful news into a person who would be genuinely glad to see me.
She’d squint across the table,stand up in her walker, offer me food, tell me to make her some tea in her uniquely crabby way, and command me to tell her all about it. An hour would go by, and she say something like “I’m so proud of that kid. You and Chris really raised her well. “
I’d give her a hug, and bounce out of the house, back to work. I miss my mom.
Visitors, many of you have taken the time to be gracious to me and tell me of your own experiences with your mothers. Unfortunately, not all have been good. And for that, my heart goes out to you.
Most of you though, have mothers who have done the best they could, and you’re grateful. T.L., thanks for sharing with me about losing your mom to ovarian cancer. A big, strapping man like you crying like a baby in the john makes me feel less isolated. You’re the best.
B. H., thank YOU for telling me about losing your mom when you were twenty. You’ve missed her for more than thirty years, yet your beautiful smile and lovely family reassure me that things will be OK.
K.L.? Thanks for sharing YOUR mom. She reminds me so much of mine, it’s a comfort every time I visit. Do you know last time when I left Eastman, she waved, smiled and said ‘Arrivederci’? ‘Until we meet again,” indeed!
A.R., thank YOU for tearing up with me every time we talk about moms. Seven years yours has been gone, but you’ve thrived, and grown as a woman of God.
Thank you, Visitors. To walk into the lonely night alone is a terrible thing. I greatly appreciate your company in these, the dark nights of the soul.
May I give you a piece of gentle advice? If you can, make peace with your mother. If you are at peace? Thank God, and think about the wonderful things you have. Skype, a card, a phone call, a chance to sit on the couch and chat. I’m thankful I had all those things for as long as I did.
Arrivederci, my friends, and bon soir.
“Cumberbabe”- Urban Dictionary.
Fans of the glorious actor, Benedict Cumberbatch, originally under the name “Cumberb*****”. The title of the fangirls was changed under the suggestion of Benedict himself, and so it became Cumberbabe.
It is simply killing me not to spoil “Star Trek Into Darkness” for you. I can’t even tell you how much I want word-bleed all over the page with reference after reference for all of us die-hard Trekkies out there. (And yes, beloved son of mine, it is “Trekkie”. Say “Trekker” again, and there may be blood.)
The Glorious Benedict Cumberbatch! Movie Idol for the Brainy!
My daughters and I have been swooning over the beautiful Benedict since we discovered him on the BBC version of Sherlock Holmes.
Benedict has actually been a steadily working actor for over a dozen years, but “Sherlock” was his breakout role, and now “Star Trek” is breaking records everywhere.
The girls and I are going to see it again tonight. The first time I saw it, I overheard a number of people in my vintage (that is to say 40plus) whispering about the sheer number of references director JJ Abrams gives us die hards to talk about.
It’s just hilarious. Ever notice how much cultural energy is to be found in shared storytelling, especially if the storytelling is good?
Even the corny ones like “Good Night, John Boy,” (The Waltons) “Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!”(Lost in Space), or “Who loves ya, baby?” (Kojak) or “Mom always liked you best!” (Smothers Brothers) , “Yada, yada, yada’ (Seinfeld) Even “Jane, you ignorant slut!” ( Saturday Night Live) (Heheh, sorry about that one, I just loved Dan Akroyd as a kid).
All of these completely dorky lines wormed their way into our cultural psyche to produce something that’s actually pretty funny. Remember calling out your friends’ stupidity with “Where’s the Beef?” Or, and this really dates me, acting pleased with a thumbs up and a long “Aaaay” like the Fonz? Oh, just the visual is hilarious.
Well, I can’t resist. So, in the spirit of a little fun, I’m going to give you Trekkies who haven’t seen the movie yet, a little scavenger hunt. If you over-think these things, you might spoil the movie, but I doubt it unless you are a complete Star Trek nerd like me. So when you go, look for these things.
What’s with the tribble?
The things you can do with a fire hose!
“I’m a doctor not a ________”
Lastly, those magnificent photon torpedos.
Get thee to a theater, get a large popcorn and settle in. It’s a blast. Those of you who have been to a Star Con, leave me a note and tell me what I missed. You know who you are.
Well, Visitors, I’ve got a stumper for you. I’ve been informed by a long-term reader of mine that my attempts at camouflage are really pretty lame. I’ve been investigating this whole PTSD phenomenon for a while, and how the general population deals with mental differences. I’ve related to you some stories about how various people in my circles deal with someone like me who’s been traumatized, and what it’s like to live, grow, and even thrive with this particular kind of baggage. I’ve told you very personal stories of betrayal, and some of them have been at the hands of the same people.
Here’s a summary for you, in case you’re new around here and don’t feel like reading my morose “Why a Blog” page. (Spoiler alert, Run away quickly if you are dealing with metastatic colon cancer. I’m not going to pull any punches with this one. Everyone is different, and you or your loved one might very well live. My husband did not, and it was ugly. )
July 18, 2010, my 46 year old husband Chris passed away from colon cancer. It was just about every nightmare you can imagine. If metastatic colon cancer were a form of legal punishment, it would be outlawed as ‘cruel and unusual’.
I just read on the Colon Cancer Alliance page (http://www.ccalliance.org/) that the statistics for stage 4 colon cancer five year survival rates are up to a grand 12%. When Chris was diagnosed, the number was about 8%. Good luck with that.
At any rate, it’s easy to romanticize a lost battle to the death. I don’t feel like doing that anymore. Chris’s fight was ferocious, desperate, painful, grasping, and very, very deliberate. If there was one thing that kept him going, it was the fact that he simply couldn’t stand the idea of his children’s stories having “I lost my dad as a teenager” as a tagline. So he fought it off as long as he could.
Metastatic colon cancer is a wasting disease. He had no symptoms until it had invaded his liver. Fairly quickly, he went from a robust, six foot, 185 pound barrel chested man with incredibly sexy arms, to a withered 128 lb shell of himself.
His last week at home is something I’m still recovering from. Intimate proximity to horrifying, traumatic death is a very good working definition of PTSD. A musical friend of mine once said “Victoria, that stuff is enough to mess with anyone’s mind.” Right on, Kate.
So, it’s part of my story. It’s a lot more peaceful now, actually. The first year or two, mental pictures of those last days would invade my dreams, even the wakeful ones. I’ve since learned that to try and banish that sort of thing is fairly pointless. What’s the first thing you think of when I say “Don’t think about elephants?” Big, grey, floppy trunks and ears, of course. So, “Don’t think about it?” How stupid is that?
Much better to talk myself down. Remind myself that it isn’t happening now. He’s not bleeding out now. He’s not hallucinating now. I’m not calling emergency vehicles now. Friends aren’t descending now. The kids aren’t freaking out now. Yep, it happened, yep, it was hell, but it isn’t happening now. It’s surprising, how settling that can be.
I’ve discovered though, in many circles, that kind of self-talk makes me a fruitcake. To get back to my opening line, some of you have been able to tell that some of the stories I’ve related here have the same cast of characters.
Actually, probably most of you. I guess I’m pretty guilty of thinking too highly of my writing abilities. But what of it? The fact that anyone, a Jeff, Terrence, Chandler, whoever, would go around still using words like ‘crazy’, is kind of startling. Do we say “retarded?”, “faggot?”, “Butch Queen?”, “kike” or “towel-head?” anymore? Of course not.
So why is “Crazy” the last bastion of comparative gossip?
My daughter Faith just cracks me up. She’s got the self-righteous, laser-focus hypocrisy meter cranked up on high. She also struggles like hell excelling at a pre-med course of study, community volunteerism, and intense grief about Dad that ratchets up with every accomplishment.
“Mom, my lab partner listens when I talk about how sad I am that Dad isn’t here to see I’ve tested out of two years of Spanish. Then she goes and tells her friends how glad she is her life isn’t crazy like mine! “
Yep, comparative gossip.
When did it become OK to say,or even think, “Well, my life sucks, but at least it isn’t as bad as THEIRS.”
I had an interesting discussion with a member of my church the other day. This woman was a medical doctor, a “Christian”, and good friends with one of the characters I’ve previously introduced you to. Apparently, these two harpys feasted on the idea that, well, while THEIR lives might be hard, at least they aren’t CRAZY like me. For heaven’s sake.
As most of you know, and my counselor reminds me constantly, I have an overdeveloped sense of justice. I simply can’t stand to see the powerless taken advantage of. That’s why I’ve spent the past several decades working with children, and find it so satisfying.
But when grown, educated, rational adults go off like this, I can barely see straight. Just who do you think you are, making such insane judgements? This is nothing but a play for power, and a pathetic one at that.
As you can probably anticipate, I had to call the doctor out on it. Matthew 18:15-16 is clear.
15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’
So I did this. One of the few people in my life I listen to, a spiritual director of sorts, mediated the discussion.
I asked the doctor point blank of she had done these things. First, she went off on a long-winded riff about how she had never, ever, not one single time, even heard my name, couldn’t dial me up, had no idea who I was, until she received the mediating phone call.
So, I asked her point blank, “So you never, ever, not one single time, had a discussion with the other party that involved any identifying characteristics of me, my name, my age, the fact that I stutter, my relationship status, my cancer story, my mental state,nothing?”
Silence on the other end. Then, more of the ‘Superior Than Thou’ riff”
“Well, I’m a doctor. ” (So? That and three dollars will get you coffee at Starbucks) “People ask me medical questions all the time.” (Really? And you discuss them in a personal manner? All the time?)
“She may have talked to me a couple of times, but it barely stuck.”
Really? Well, you can’t have it both ways. Either you “Never, Ever, Not Even Once” heard or spoke of me, or you did.
The long and short of the conversation was that the doctor was understandably embarrassed about being called out, and hung up on me angrily. Huh. Guess Victoria failed on the Romans 12:18, “In as much as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” department.
So Miss Victoria is stumped. I honestly don’t have it out for the doctor. I’ve grown up in the medical community, and misbehaving doctors are a very sore spot with me. Especially one that makes a claim to the promises of Christ. So what to do ? I am beginning to thing, nothing. Jesus already promised that God the Father will protect the widow and the orphan.
It’s time to put this to bed. July 18 will mark three years that Chris has been gone.
Ephesians, Proverbs, Timothy, all of these remarkable books in the Bible talk about how ‘gossip separates intimate friends’, ‘stirs up anger’ , is frightfully judgemental and is something only ‘busybodies’ do.
Even being the butt of this nonsense, I’m actually OK. How about that? Two years ago I never would have been able to say that, much less share that with you, gentle Visitors.
My kids and I go along, and it’s OK. In fact, I can actually say that one blessing I’ve gotten out of this is an acute appreciation for the undeniable fact that all of us, every single one, has baggage to carry.
Every single one of us deserves to have their baggage handled with gentleness, privacy and care. That some of us, like this doctor, don’t do that? Well, I guess they’ll always be there. Like my mom once said-
“Vickey, sometimes the only thing in me that loves people like that is Jesus.”
Well said, Ma.
Much love to you all,
Chris and I had a simply terrific pastor for pre-marital counseling. His name was Mark Brattrud, and he pastored a little Full Gospel church that met in a Howard Johnson’s in Albany. Mark was perhaps thirty at the time, married for a few years with a couple of small kids. The church grew like wildfire. Made up mainly of college kids and young marrieds, we got the job done.
We sent out missionaries, sent up Sunday school programs for little ones, and had all kinds of positive things going in the community. I’m convinced that one of the reasons this happened was because Mark took what the Bible had to say about money very seriously.
At the time, a man named Larry Burkett had started a ministry called Christian Financial Concepts out of Georgia. Larry merged his ministry with another one, and it’s now called Crown Financial Ministries. Larry passed away after that from cancer, but Crown continues to thrive.
Mark got all of the “managing your money God’s way” materials and made Chris and I study them together as part of our counseling. We learned all kinds of things like this:
*Jesus talks more about money than any other topic except salvation and love. “Did you know that?
“The Bible has a lot to say about finances and belongings. I have researched God’s Word and found more passages about money and possessions than about heaven, hell or the Second Coming. The Bible offers more than 500 verses on prayer and fewer than 500 on faith — but more than 2,350 verses on money and possessions! There is no doubt that the church should have something to say about financial matters in the church as well as in the secular world.” (www.crown.org)
*”Thou Shalt Not Go Into Debt” is nowhere to be found in the Bible. It does, however, admonish us with all kinds of scary images about debt. Ps. 37:21 calles us “wicked” if we borrow and do not repay. Proverbs 22:7 says the “borrower becomes the lender’s slave.” Yikes!
* Money is intimately connected to your heart.
Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
So, Pastor Mark wanted Chris and I to “hide these things in our heart” from the very beginning of our relationship. Considering that nearly 80% of all divorces cite “Money” as one of the top 3 reasons for splitting up, this was a very wise idea.
Anyone who’s been married for a while knows that reasons for arguing with your spouse abound. It’s nice to knock “Money” off the list from the beginning. I can sit here and tell you with clear eyed truthfulness, Chris and I never argued about money, because of this early training.
So, now that he’s gone, what to do? In the previous post, I related to you a gritty situation I found myself in regarding money.
The megachurches I have been involved in over the past years, sadly, don’t seem to handle their money well. Before Chris was diagnosed, we attended a church up here that has since shut down. Money was a constant issue. The church was affluent and well attended. It was estimated that the average annual income of the attendees there amounted to about 70 million dollars a year. (Average household income in the area about 70,000$ a year, times about a thousand regular givers.)
Out of the seven years we went to that church, it stretched to meet a two million dollar budget. Jesus asks us simply to tithe. Just tithe, or give ten percent of our income. Jewish folks actually were encouraged to make all kinds of other offerings, the ten percent was a minimum.
Had my old church simply been obedient and tithed, our annual budget would have tripled. Think of it. Seven million dollars. We could have started a free medical clinic, immunized poor kids, supported food pantries, had every single ministry in the family of God provided for abundantly, very likely with some left over.
This is, sadly, the modus operandi of most American megachurches. Honestly, it’s so irritating I could spit. My kids and I talk about this type of thing all the time, and fortunately, so far, their training in generosity seems to have ‘stuck’.
Ten percent isn’t that much. If we can’t get along with 90 percent of what most Christians make, we seriously need to reevaluate.
Did you ever notice, too, that Christians can’t seem to talk about this type of thing without raising up a whole crop of squirrely attitudes?
I got blasted the other day by a regular reader about the previous post. David is a doll, and one of my most valued friends. Still, he’s a redheaded Irishman, and trusts me enough to let loose now and again.
“Victoria! You should take that post down! You can’t assume about people’s financial situations! And besides, you’re making yourself out to be this loaded chick with more money than God! You are sounding very manipulative!”
Hmm. I thought about it. Really, I did. David is one of about 5 people that I actually listen to when they criticize me.
I realized that David was right about some things. Since Chris and I used God’s principles of handling money from our marital infancy, we’ve always had a surplus. The point of that surplus, after the needs of the family are met, is to give it away. Really, it’s not brain surgery, a minimum of study will reveal that God owns it all anyway, so we may as well be obedient.
Very, very few Christians are obedient in this way. Thus, people like me come across as indiscreet. How unfortunate. How much better for ALL of us to be obedient, and maybe even get together and TALK about the good we could be doing with a surplus!
When Chris and I were young, we had the joy of discovering that even a well placed 50$ could make a world of difference to someone. As we went along, we learned about how wise Christians provide even for their children’s children (Proverbs 13:22) and how we need to know where our money goes and have a plan for it (Proverbs 27:23) .
The blessings of this sort of concrete planning are really pretty cool. I think the best part of this type of thing is the joy that comes with contentment. Chris and I were not millionaires, and with four children to educate, I’m not going to be that, probably ever. But we knew the faces of our flock, AND knew the faces that came with sharing with those of us who don’t have a surplus, and could use some of ours.
So, my friends, lay off the judgements, if you please. I talk about giving because it’s what Jesus asks us to do, not because I’m made of money. Also because I think it’s pretty darn fun.
Much love to you all,